Iím just back from Belmont Park where I saw the Belmont Stakes, and I am very disappointed that a lot of good horses didnít run in that race. I have some observations about that and about the fact that we are in an era today in racing where horses donít run very much.
Now there are several reasons for that. One is that the breed is certainly not as hardy as it used to be. The reason for that is that breeders and consignors produce horses that are bred for precocity, and they donít crank much stamina into the mating equation. So thatís certainly one thing.
Another is that trainers are subject to fads. I think some of the top trainers have decided that they should run a horse once every five to six weeks. And if there are famous trainers that think that, other trainers will fall in line with the same deal.
The Belmont Stakes was, to me, the weakest I had seen in years. After the Derby and the Preakness we saw all the Californians flee back to California. Bernardini, who was a smashing winner in the Preakness, for some strange reason known only to Sheikh Mohammed, decided to pass what is surely one of our most famous, most desirable Classics Ė the Belmont Stakes. Iím sure Sheikh Mohammed doesnít need my advice, but it is regrettable that it came up to be such a weak race.
What I think is an idiotic school of thought existing today is that of passing enormously big races to get ready to run in another big race. A wonderful example of that is the Breedersí Cup two-year-old race in the fall. Many people say that itís a jinx to run in that race because then you canít go on seven months later and win the Kentucky Derby. Well that race is worth millions Ė and itís worth going for. It is a wonderful target in itself even if you donít do anything ever again.
In the springtime you hear of people tightening their horse in the Blue Grass to run in the Kentucky Derby or giving their horse an easy race in the Florida Derby to get ready for the Kentucky Derby. If you can win any of those prep races, man you better go ahead and do it. Those are great targets worth going for and you better not worry about the Derby.
I read that one man was training his horse for the purpose of winning the Triple Crown. Well, that sounds great and is a wonderful idea, but my gosh Ė everybodyís training to win the Triple Crown. You better win the races as they come along and not worry about something that is six months down the road. The horse is a very perishable commodity.
Now, as far as the Triple Crown races, one thing that drives me up a wall, is that I think itís an absurdity to consider changing the time between the three races or shortening the distance of the races. It takes a damn good horse to win the Triple Crown and believe me a horse will come on in the future and get the job done.
Further reflection on the Belmont is one that certainly comes up with me, and that has to do with Summer Squall, who won the Preakness in 1990. He ran second in the Derby, won the Preakness. Unbridled won the Derby and was second in the Preakness. They were even then as the Belmont came along, and there was a $1 Million bonus to the horse with the best record after the Belmont.
We elected not to even compete because our horse was a bleeder, needed Lasix, and in those days New York did not offer the opportunity to use Lasix Ė it was illegal in New York. So we absolutely forfeited the million bucks to Unbridled. That, of course, is a good reason not to run in the race. Youíve got to watch out for your horse. But just to skip the Belmont to run in the Travers is an absurdity.
There is an old adage in racing, and one that I subscribe to, when youíve got a horse thatís ready to run, you better run him. I also believe in running them, rather than training the hell out of them.